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On Illegality Judgment of Business Behaviors Based on Data Analysis in China, the EU and the U.S. - In the light of personalized pricing

The illegality judgment of personalized pricing is still an unsolved question from the legal standpoint. One of the chief aims will be to find the optimal approach to regulate personalized pricing by comparing antitrust law, data protection law and consumer protection law in China, the U.S. and the EU.

Last Update: 07.04.20

Nowadays, online services, which cover almost all fields in our daily life, such as shopping, e-hailing, hotel booking, and so on, is becoming more and more popular. Generally, personal information, such as address, name, gender and so on, is needed to be provided in the usage of online service. Online companies master more data of consumers than ever before. However, some of the companies may conduct some business behaviors to maximize profit based on data analysis, which may give rise to an unforeseen result— Internet companies provide different consumers with different prices of the same product or service by analyzing their personal information, which is called personalized pricing (price discrimination)

In the commercial place, big data is service for companies to obtain more interests, but it may also raise price discrimination (personalized pricing), which would damage the interest of consumers. As Julia Angwin and Dana Mattioli said: “In the age of internet, fixed prices are a thing of the past”. As a matter of fact, in the e-hailing, online hotel/airplane booking, online shopping and online movie tickets booking industries, there exists personalized pricing. Different industries have their special ways to distinguish consumers. For example, in the e-hailing industry, Uber or Didi may focus more on consumers’ usual location or the battery level of phone. If the battery level is low, consumers may be willing to pay higher price to take a car before they run out of power. Meanwhile, online shopping companies maybe more focused on consumers’ economic ability. Consumers will be defined as “high spender” if they always buy luxury products. These behaviors are the example of personalized pricing of Internet companies, based on data analysis, and this phenomenon is extending to the whole Internet world. Although many consumers hold the view, such personalized pricing is illegal and these companies cheat consumers, the illegality judgment of online personalized pricing is still an unsolved question from the legal standpoint. In light of this, there is enormous urgency to investigate this problem. Against this background, it is necessary to discuss the illegality judgment of business behaviors based on data analysis in China, the EU and the U.S. If it is legal, what reasons can support this behavior? If it is illegal, which law can be used to regulate this phenomenon? During this discussion, a comparative study will be conducted to analyze the different results in the legal framework of China, the U.S. and the EU.  

    The illegality judgment of online personalized pricing is a very controversial topic, and different laws will have different requirements and reach different results. This article is to determine which law would be more appropriate for regulating the behaviour of personalized pricing.


Doctoral Student

Lixia FU

Doctoral Supervisor

Prof. Dr. Kaizhong HU

Main Areas of Research

II.5 Rechtsdurchsetzung und Streitbeilegung